Sunday, May 19, 2013

Under-recognized Batches of Historic Resource Possibilities Outside the Original City (118)

In recent months, two owners of buildings outside the “original city” historical area of Davis have applied radically to alter or to demolish their structures. 

These applications have triggered City reviews for potential historical significance. This has happened because City ordinances require that any structure built in or before 1945 be so evaluated and each appears to pre-date 1945.

The idea of historical resources outside the “original city” surprised me a bit. But then I realized that was only because my “historic Davis” mindset was formed by those dozens of maps drawn between 1917 and 1945 that show “the city” to be basically bounded by A, First, Seventh and L.

When the City formed a “historical conservation” district in 2001, this same area was adopted as the locale to which the district applied. The image on the cover of the Conservation District Guidelines reproduced here emblazons it as THE defining visualization in all matters preservation (images 1 and 2).

But, the additional historical fact is that long before the first city expansion of it’s boundaries in 1946, people were building on property just outside the 1917/official city. It turns out there are quite a few such structues--and many more than one might realize before looking into the matter.

One indicator of the magnitude of this beyond-the-borders expansion is provided by a March 27, 1942 Davis Enterprise report of Yolo County officials starting to try to get a handle on building “in the county,” and to apply zoning regulations to it. (image 3)


Seeking a little more specificity, I then looked at aerial photos of Davis taken by the illustrious Susanville post card maker and high-resolution photographer Jervie Eastman.

He photographed Davis from the air in 1946, a year close enough for our purposes here.

As can be seen in images 4 and 5 (and including areas to the west not shown), there were at least several dozen homes outside the 1917 City. (There are, in addition, clusters of buildings along what we now call “Olive Drive,” also not shown here.)

The context for understanding that “several dozen” is a large number is the fact that when counted in the year 2000, there were only 330 surviving buildings built before 1945 inside the 1917 City (image 6). A significant number of them have since been demolished, remodeled out of character, or moved from the City.



So, in the absence of changing the historical evaluation triggering year from 1945 to some more recent year, these “outlying” structures represent an important portion of the stock of historical resource potential.

Of course, when evaluated for historical significance, only a very, very small number in either location will be judged to have such significance.